MINI is planning on offering Level 2+ Autonomy to all of its next generation cars beginning late next year. The system MINI intends to use will be very similar to the one recently previewed in the updated BMW X7 and BMW 7 Series and will be a massive leap for the brand. But what is Level 2+ and why should you care? If you ever drive on the highway you’ll want to read on.

Currently MINI has only one vaguely autonomous feature – adaptive cruise. While helpful it really does one thing – follow the car in front. MINI’s aim is to introduce this technology as an option meant primarily for highway purposes.

BMW’s current Active Driving Assistant Pro (optional on most mid-sized to larger BMWs) allows for Level 2+ below 37 MPH. That means you can take your hands off the wheel entirely as long as your eyes are on the road. The car will stop, go, turn and even change lanes on command. However once you reach 38 MPH the system turns off and goes into the simplistic Level 2 mode which requires a driver’s hands to rest on the wheel. Keep in mind in Level 2 mode the functionality is the same but the system won’t work unless a driver has both their eyes on the road (eye tracking is in the cluster) and hands on the wheel (as determined by a pressure sensor). The real difference between L2 and L2+ is the ability to take your hands off the wheel and (safely) use your phone or check the center display for short amounts of time.

Note the large black area in the grille. Along with the top of the windshield, that area will house sensors that will make L2+ Autonomous driving possible for MINIs.

It will get even more advanced in specific markets. If MINI follows BMW’s lead, the system will be capable of Level 2+ Autonomy and eventually Level 3 on some German highways. That would mean hands off and eyes off for long distances. Unfortunately US regulations and the state of our highways will make L3 impossible in the short-term.

For BMW the new L2+ system is a nice upgrade as it will allow for hands-free driving up to 81 mph an hour (130 KPH) making it massively more helpful for the majority of drivers and likely to be used much more. While MINI drivers are more likely to want to drive their cars, it’s hard to argue with a robot taking over duties on long, straight highway drives.

Look for MINI to talk about this technology closer to the launch of the next generation Countryman late next year. Eventually it will filter into the new 2024 electric MINI and revised ICE (internal combustion engine) 2024 F56 MINI.